If Mad Men Happened Today: Market Research Solving Yesterday’s Questions


Mad Men has been a favorite show of mine for a while. While I can say I loved the compelling characters and the nuanced writing, often the fun came in the workplace drama. The pitches were enthralling, the challenges and frustrations familiar, and the successes inspiring. The show spanned the years 1960 to 1970, really the golden age of advertising but – the infancy of market research.

Market research is not unheard of in Sterling, Cooper, & Draper (and its many incarnations). We see Peggy doing face-to-face research for Burger Chef, asking mothers why they are picking up dinner at a fast food chain instead of serving a home-cooked meal. We also often hear of focus groups and copy testing for new ads.

Still, without the power of advanced analytics and the ability to speak to a wide variety of people, market research was limited. In fact, even a company like Ipsos wasn’t founded until 1975. And really, market research was not really a specialty many were focusing on in the 60s.

But what if Ipsos was around in the 60s? What if we could have answered key business questions that SC&P’s clients came to them with, instead of with Don’s great, spur-of-the-moment ideas, with market research? It’s a fun game of “what if.” Because, let’s face it – not everyone can come up with the most memorable ad campaign in recent history after letting out a few “om”s.

Topaz Being Pushed out of the Bottom of the Market

Topaz, one of Joan’s clients, comes to her to say that their competitor, L’Eggs, is pushing them out of the bottom of the hosiery market. The product, which sounds French and has unique packaging mimicking the shape of an egg, was one of the most successful new product launches ever. Topaz, which had owned the bottom of the hosiery market – sold in drug stores – found themselves losing sales to L’Eggs.

Don Draper, to the rescue, suggests an innovation of sorts – why not distribute in department stores and get the low end of the high-end hosiery market? An intriguing idea, but would it work?

Photo: blog.seattlepi.com

Photo: blog.seattlepi.com

Topaz might want to understand the landscape of the hosiery category to make sure this would be a fit. What equity does Topaz own? How does this compare to the department store brands? Does Topaz have the right to play in a department store, or should Topaz launch a new brand to compete in that market? Ipsos would suggest a study to define the landscape and ensure Topaz has a right to play before changing their distribution so radically.

Miller Wants to Launch the first Light Beer … Targeted at Men

We do see some research take a role in Miller’s interest in launching a light beer. In fact, we see a director of research tell a story about a man, a man who is loyal to his brand of beer. He lives in the heartland, makes a good living but works long hours, has power tools in the garage he never uses, and loves dogs because they don’t talk. This is all a nice story, but really just because Miller has identified their target consumer for a product innovation, doesn’t mean it will succeed.

Miller is really considering a line extension, and must think through a few things: will this product alienate my current users? Will my target audience, the heartland dog lover, try the new product? And will they keep on buying it after they’ve tried it? Ipsos would likely recommend a concept test followed by a product test, making sure the Miller users aren’t alienated and that our heartland dog lover will not only be urged to try the product but also continue to purchase.

All the great advertising thought up by McCann Erickson creative directors won’t help a product succeed if Miller can’t answer these key questions.



Of course, these scenarios assume we have the power of tools we take for granted in market research and the professional world in general nowadays – such as computers, the Internet, online panels, advanced analytics … not really options in the 60s. Now in the 2010s we have so many more resources at our fingers, we have to hope we are making smarter decisions now than then. Though I think we can all agree Don Draper sure had some great marketing ideas.